Cliff Pennington lands on disabled list with sprained bat

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Well, technically it’s with a sore elbow, but no one is buying that excuse.

The A’s placed Cliff Pennigton on the disabled list after his latest 0-for Thursday. He had gone hitless in four straight games, taking his average down to .197 for the season. That comes with just 17 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and 23 walks in 284 at-bats, so he’s been a huge drag on the offense. He ranks dead last in the majors in OPS among qualified batters:

156. Pennington: .541
155. Dee Gordon (SS LAD): .562
154. Justin Smoak (1B Sea): .600
153. Jamey Carroll (INF Min): .606
152. Cameron Maybin (CF SD): .615
151. Robert Andino (2B Bal): .617
150. Jordan Schafer (CF Hou): .617
149. Jemile Weeks (2B Oak): .619
148. Brandon Crawford (SS SF): .623
147. Placido Polanco (3B Phi): .627

Eric Sogard was called up to replace Pennington and will share time at shortstop with Brandon Hicks. The A’s are in the market for an upgrade, with Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew serving as possibilities.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.